Canada

Head of CBC News Jennifer McGuire leaving CBC as part of leadership restructuring

CBC's head of news, Jennifer McGuire, is stepping down after more than a decade in the role and leaving CBC at the end of this week, the public broadcaster announced Thursday.

Departure of longtime news executive is part of reorganization focused on greater integration

Head of CBC News Jennifer McGuire is leaving CBC, the public broadcaster announced on Thursday. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen Photography)

CBC's editor-in-chief of news, Jennifer McGuire, is stepping down after more than a decade in the role and leaving CBC at the end of this week, the public broadcaster announced Thursday.

"I have had a long career passionately serving the mission of our public broadcaster in various roles," McGuire said in a note to staff

"And while I love this place, it is time for me to spread my wings and imagine a life outside of the CBC while I am at the height of my skills and while I have some runway left in my career life to do it."

As general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News since May 2009, McGuire has been responsible for English language news content and programming across the public broadcaster's different platforms: radio, television, digital and social.

CBC underwent major redevelopment initiatives during her tenure, including the reinvention of CBC Radio 2, the integration of the broadcaster's television, radio and digital news operations, the rebranding of CBC Newsworld into CBC News Network and the revamp of flagship TV newscast The National

"Change and challenge are united," McGuire said. "And I have been on the front end of many challenging, but ultimately important, reinventions."

Began CBC career in radio

McGuire began her career at the CBC in radio as an associate producer for the broadcaster's morning radio program in Ottawa. Later, she worked as a TV producer for Foreign Assignment and other shows on CBC Newsworld.

Before taking on the role of editor-in-chief, McGuire served as program director and then executive director of CBC Radio, where she helped establish the program development process and lead the creation of shows such as The Current

McGuire, right, presents retired correspondent David Halton with a CBC News Hall of Fame plaque honouring his father, Second World War correspondent Matthew Halton, in Toronto in June 2019. (Albert Leung/CBC)

During her more than 10 years as head of news, the public broadcaster became news itself on account of several controversies, including the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, the "appropriation prize" furor and criticism over on-air CBC journalists giving paid speaking engagements.

During that time, she also oversaw CBC's coverage of major news stories and investigations, such as the Ebola outbreak and the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls investigation.

"It is not always easy, but we are the most powerful when we lead, whether it is going to Liberia to cover Ebola or digging into why there are no seat belts on school buses [or] our important work around MMIW," McGuire said.

Peter Mansbridge, a 50-year veteran of the CBC and anchor of The National from 1988 to June 2017, said McGuire was a different type of head of news than the CBC had had before.

"She was never one to allow herself to get consumed by the news story of the day," he said. "Instead, she was consumed by keeping CBC News at the front lines of the changing nature of how news is produced and consumed.

"Her lasting legacy will be how she successfully moved the CBC, and especially CBC News, into the digital age."

Leadership restructuring

The news about McGuire's departure came an hour before a staff town hall in which Barbara Williams, CBC's vice-president of English services, outlined a restructuring of its leadership with the goal of integrating different areas within CBC. 

"CBC is built on a traditional, platform-based model, and while we do have an innovative spirit, it is sometimes encumbered by silos," Williams said in statement following the town hall, held in Toronto and streamed across the country.

"We need to move to a more audience-centric approach where we are ultimately working together as one CBC."

Barbara Williams, CBC's vice-president of English services, announced on Thursday a restructuring of its leadership with the goal of integrating different areas within the public broadcaster. CBC 'is sometimes encumbered by silos,' she said, adding that the goal is to be 'ultimately working together as one CBC.'

As part of the leadership changes, Williams promoted Susan Marjetti to the newly created position of general manager of news, current affairs and local. Marjetti moves up from her current post as executive director of CBC Radio and audio.

Brodie Fenlon, who returned to CBC News in August as executive director and deputy editor-in-chief, will take on the mantle of editor-in-chief as well as executive director of daily news. 

Cathy Perry, senior director of CBC network talk radio, has been named executive director of current affairs, investigative and long-form journalism.

Other changes include a new portfolio for Sally Catto. Currently CBC-TV's general manager of programming, Catto is being promoted to the newly created position of general manager of entertainment, factual and sports.

Along with that of McGuire, she also announced the departure of another longtime CBC leader: Fred Mattocks, general manager of local services.

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